My friend's sister, Emily, is a pastry chef, so once a year, we make it point to visit whichever fancy restaurant she happens to be working at. For the past couple of years, she's been the executive pastry chef at Cookshop, located on 20th and 10th Ave.
The first time we visited, we were given samplers of some of their "snacks," which included deviled eggs (where I had my first taste of smoked paprika and was hooked) and fried hominy. The scallops were recommended to me as an entree and I wasn't disappointed. Dessert was of course our main focus. I think we sampled just about everything on the menu, plus more. The Cookshop Candy Bar is a complex, compact little dessert that everyone must try. I attended a workshop where Emily demonstrated how to make these, so I now appreciate all the work that goes into the process. She also makes amazing bread puddings and has had plenty of write-ups on her ice cream and sorbets.
I'm dedicating a paragraph just for the sorbets, because they're one of the main reasons I keep going back. I've never eaten anything that captured the natural flavor of something as well as these sorbets. The apple sorbet is my all-time favorite, because it tastes exactly like fresh frozen apple. Unfortunately, it wasn't on the menu when my husband and I went last night, so I tried a scoop of concord grape, grapefruit-campari and hazelnut. Having grown up with a concord vine in the backyard, I'm perfectly familiar with the way they taste, but this sorbet tasted (and looked) like it was made from slightly younger light-purple grapes and was delicious. The grapefruit campari was fresh and zingy and the hazelnut was so intense in flavor it almost felt like eating a cookie or pie crust. If you want to experiment with less typical flavors, try the the basil sorbet. It wasn't quite my cup of tea, but most of the ladies I was with really enjoyed it.
Their menu is based on seasonal ingredients, so it changes frequently. I've been back 4 times now, 3x for dinner and once for brunch. My husband has tried the sturgeon and eggplant parmesan and loved both. Last night we tried their fried green tomatoes, which had a sweet relish on top, but were too full to finish them. Their dishes can be a little heavy on the salt at times and the variation in quantities depending on the entree can be pretty drastic, but other than that, I have no gripes. Being as popular as it is, it's a pretty noisy, crowded restaurant, so if you're looking for a quiet romantic spot, it might not be the place to go.
Also, if you go during the day, be sure to walk on the Highline (raised subway track turned into garden) The entrance is right across the street.